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The Hero Next Door

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Hammers hover suspended in air. Drills whine down. Workers carrying a huge sheet of plywood slow to a stop and listen intently.

The pagers on their hips have some signals they need to hear: One means standby, another means listen more closely, still another says, drop your tool belts, get in your vehicles, and meet your chief at the station, pronto!

Across the Valley, other “important” things lose priority. A dog pushes a ball around in an interrupted game of fetch; a romantic dinner cools untouched; candles melt down on a birthday cake; the kids have to read their own bedtime story tonight.

This is what a call to your fire department looks like.

What you expect is someone in uniform in something with flashing lights to respond to your emergency.

But do you expect to see your florist? Your kid’s coach? Your city planner?

This is what a call to your fire department looks like.

In your time of need, you probably don’t know what life plans others have sacrificed to be at your side. Or the time taken from their own lives to earn the qualifications to be there.

The oft-quoted adage, “you get what you pay for,” couldn’t be more inappropriate than when speaking of the dedicated souls who volunteer as Valley firefighters.

“Other than, say, crab fishing in the Bering Strait, being a firefighter is among the most dangerous jobs you can do,” says Sun Valley Fire Chief Jeff Carnes. “Volunteers buy their own insurance and they give up countless hours to train. It’s not for the money. It’s because they truly believe in helping their community. If they don’t have that mindset, they wouldn’t even walk in the door.”

Brian Poster's construction clients are understanding when he gets a firefighting call. 
They have to be-seven of his staffers serve as volunteer firefighters

Volunteer and combination departments make up 90 percent of fire departments across the United States. Shortages in major cities regularly strain departments during major events.

Most of Idaho’s departments are paid-on-call. Funding comes from city, state, and federal grants, and here in the Valley, from the annual Firefighter’s Ball. With most of the ball’s proceeds going to a fund for fire victims, there is little left over for equipment and other needs.

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